China is building a test site for unmanned ships in south
China's Guangdong Province, according to a report from
Chinese state media outlet, Xinhua.
The test site off the coast of Zhuhai will be jointly funded
by the Zhuhai city government, the China Classification Society, Wuhan
University of Technology, and Oceanalpha,
an unmanned surface vessel company based in Zhuhai.
The first phase of the site will occupy 21.6 square kilometres.
During the second phase the test area will be expanded by 750 square
According to Xinhua, the site is designed to emulate, test
and verify functions of unmanned ships, including route planning, tracking,
berthing and departure.
Lu Xiaofeng, deputy mayor of Zhuhai, said that Zhuhai hopes
to become a high-tech base for the development, test and certification of
unmanned ships within three to five years.
The construction of the marine test site will include the
construction of networks, communications, navigation, optical electronics, automatic
mooring wharf and more to test scenarios such as autonomous obstacle avoidance,
coordinated formation, remote driving, autonomous operations, patrol alerts,
communication tests and so on.
Recently, a prototype unmanned surface ship capable of
traveling long distances and conducting missions without any humans on board was
transferred by the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to the Office of Naval Research (ONR)
in the US. The Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel
(ACTUV) is designed to track quiet diesel electric submarines.
In September 2017, Rolls Royce unveiled plans for an
autonomous, single role, naval vessel with a range of 3500 nautical miles. The
vessel concept is capable of operating beyond the horizon for over 100 days,
will displace 700 tonnes and reach speeds above 25 knots. The vessel is
designed to perform a range of single role missions, including patrol &
surveillance, mine detection or fleet screening. Rolls Royce has Intelligent
Awareness System combining multiple sensors with Artificial Intelligence, to
help commercial vessels operate more safely and efficiently.
In another autonomous shipping initiative, the Norwegian
Maritime Administration, The Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Federation
of Norwegian Industries and MARINTEK (now SINTEF Ocean) formed the Norwegian
Forum for Autonomous Ships (NFAS) in 2016. Projects NSAF
members are involved include the development of an autonomous
battery-driven container vessel to shift transport from road to sea and an autonomous
and unmanned passenger ferry. The Norwegian Maritime Authority and the
Norwegian Coastal Administration also signed
an agreement which allows for testing of autonomous ships in the Trondheim
fjord in 2016.